VILONIA, Arkansas?A day after a series of powerful storms in Arkansas killed eight people in flooding and a tornado, residents in several central U.S. states braced Tuesday for a second straight night of violent weather as forecasters again called for twisters to hammer the region.
The National Weather Service issued a high risk warning for severe weather in a stretch extending from northeast of Memphis to just northeast of Dallas and covering a large swath of Arkansas.
It last issued such a warning on April 16, when dozens of tornadoes hit North Carolina and killed 21 people. Fourteen tornado warnings had been issued in Arkansas by late Tuesday afternoon, although there was no confirmation that any funnel clouds touched the ground.
In Missouri, floodwaters threatened earthen levees protecting thousands of homes, rising so fast in some places that panicked residents didn't have time to pile up sandbags. Four people have died in floods.
The greatest flooding threat loomed in the southeastern Missouri community of Poplar Bluff, a town of 17,000 residents about 130 miles (209 kilometers) south of St. Louis. Six inches (15 centimeters) of rain fell Monday alone, bringing the four-day total to 15 inches (38 centimeters).
In another area near the confluence of the swollen Mississippi and Ohio rivers, authorities debated a desperate plan to use explosives to blow a 2-mile(3.2-kilometer)-wide hole through a levee to ease the pressure on others.
The latest round of storms began as communities in much of the region struggled with flooding and damage from earlier twisters. In Arkansas, a tornado smashed Vilonia, just north of Little Rock, on Monday night, ripping the roof off the grocery store, flattening homes and tossing vehicles into the air.
An early warning may have saved Lisa Watson's life in that case. She packed up her three children and was speeding away from the Black Oak Ranch subdivision in Vilonia when she looked to her left and saw the twister approach. Two of her neighbors died in their mobile homes, and a visiting couple who took shelter in a metal shipping container where the husband stored tools died when the container was blown at least 150 feet (45 meters) into a creek.
Jimmy Talley said his brother, David, told his mother that he and his wife, Katherine, were leaving the mobile home they'd been staying in because they thought the container would be safe.
"He said 'I love you, Mom,' and that's the last that anybody heard from him," Jimmy Talley said.
The tornado also reduced the mobile home the couple had been staying in to a pile of boards and belongings. The other victims were Charles Mitchell, 55, and a 63-year-old man whose name has not yet been released.
Emergency workers kept non-residents out of the subdivision Tuesday. Pictures Watson took when she returned home showed a collection of demolished mobile homes, including what looked like a pile of insulation that she said had been a trailer.
Faulkner County Judge Preston Scroggin said he thought more people might have died if the residents hadn't been receiving warnings about a possible outbreak of tornadoes since the weekend and the local weather office hadn't issued a warning almost 45 minutes before the twister hit Vilonia.
Pat Fulmer saw the warning on television and took shelter in a safe room. But as the minutes passed, she thought it might be a false alarm. The area had already received warnings for two other rotating storms that didn't result in touchdowns, she said.
"It was about to the point that we thought they were crying, 'Wolf,'" Fulmer said. Then as the tornado approached about 7:30 p.m., she began receiving calls and text messages telling her it was coming.